Meal Plan Basics

I feel like I need a real break from concentrating on cooking so I can focus on other activities. My boy is loving craft activities and I need to switch some of my baking days for painting and gluing days. In order to still keep organised in the kitchen I’ve decided to focus less on new recipes, and instead have a theme for each day of the week. This means, for example, that Mondays can be jacket potatoes with fillings. Here the basic structure to my meal plan week:

  • Sunday: Roast
  • Monday: Jacket Potatoes with Sunday Roast leftovers (e.g. roast chicken becomes coronation chicken)
  • Tuesday: Pasta
  • Wednesday: Sausages or Mince
  • Thursday: Fish
  • Friday: Pizza
  • Saturday: Stir Fry or Curry

This basic list can give me a lot of variety, my pasta day could be anything from Spaghetti Bolognese to a Creamy Carbonara, but essentially it puts more structure into my meal planning. I’m starting this week and will update my meal plans accordingly.

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Speedy Prawn Stir Fry #2

I’ve had a busy few days with my little boy unwell on holiday in Norfolk and an overnight stay in Kings Lynn hospital. Now I’m back home and I’ve needed to keep my food quick and easy while I sort a pile of washing, unpacking and my boy and I get over our tiredness. So one meal I’ve cooked is my Speedy Prawn Stir Fry regularly and when I posted the recipe it seemed to be very popular. I like to add different flavours to keep the dish from getting boring and this week I added a few different ingredients. Here is my excitingly titled Speedy Prawn Stir Fry Number 2.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 100g peas
  • Packet of fresh ready to use stir fry vegetables (approx 400g)
  • 250g pre-cooked prawns (I use frozen prawns and defrost them in my fridge)
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • approx 250g noodles
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lime
  • Handful fresh coriander.

Method:

  1. Tip the tamarind, garlic and ground coriander over the prawns and mix well.
  2. Heat noodles in boiling water according to packet instructions.
  3. Pour oil into a large wok and put on a high heat, when oil is really hot add the fennel seeds, the peas and packet of stir fry vegetables, stir quickly around the wok, after a few minutes add the prawns, scraping out all the spices/paste into the wok.
  4. Move prawns quickly around the wok for only a few minutes before adding the sesame seeds, keep stirring until prawns are hot and vegetables have wilted, this should take approx 4-5 minutes.
  5. Drain noodles, transfer to the wok and use chop sticks to mix everything together.
  6. Squeeze fresh lime over noodles (as much as you like) and serve with fresh coriander.
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The Ultimate Philadelphia Cookbook

A big thank you to Ebury Publishing for thinking of my blog and realising that this book is ideally suited to my ethos of quick, easy recipes. It was a lovely surprise when this book arrived at my door and I have spent much time with my head inside the cover. It is packed full of recipes than I would actually cook. It is normal for me to cook only a few recipes from a book, but this book is full of tasty, realistic, quick recipes; real food that real people cook.

I was particularly impressed with the quality of this book; the photography is fab, the recipes easy to follow and it is laid out clearly. There is something for every occasion from soup, to party bites, light meals to pasta and desserts. I knew cream cheese was a versitle ingredients but I now realise I can use it for much more. Cream cheese keeps fresh in the fridge for much longer than cream and it is quicker to use than making a white sauce, so I’m pleased to find out I can use it in more often. Here are some of the delicious recipes: chicken satay bites, garlic and herb salmon, sizzling chicken tortillas, sweet chilli pork kebabs, ham and leek cannelloni, 5 minute fruit brulee, sticky toffee squares, baked chocolate and orange cheesecake, I could go on and on.

This cookbook is going to be a real go to when I need a new idea. I always have a tub of cream cheese in my fridge and sometimes during the week, I go off meal plan and need to whip up something quick, tasty and filling. I will definitely be flicking through this book to give me some inspiration, with the gorgeous photography the recipes jump off the page .

I think this book would make a good present for young people, students, families and singles. I know a few people who would really like a copy of this book.

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Fairtrade Fortnight – Chocolate & Banana Muffins

Last weekend Daddy helped us do some baking and it was really lovely to spend time together in the kitchen. Jamie is a good cook and will often cook dinner for me at the weekends, but he hasn’t had the chance to see George’s baking skills in action. George and I do most of our cooking during the week. For me it was a relief to have a second pair of hands to make sure George didn’t pour too much ingredients on the floor, Jamie was really impressed with George and how much he could do for himself. I felt really proud of my little boy and took plenty of snaps of Daddy and George together; however I don’t have any pictures of the finished product because we ate them all too quickly!

Fairtrade Fortnight highlights the need to buy fairtrade products, that means when we buy something produced abroad, just like the bananas and chocolate in my muffins we know that the farmers involved have been given a fair price. I also find that buying fairtrade products where I can ensures good quality produce, fairtrade chocolate is delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 3 very ripe or overripe fairtrade bananas
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons best-quality fairtrade cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 x 12-bun muffin tin

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C, line a muffin tin with papers or use a silicone muffin tray.
  2. Mash the bananas, add the oil, eggs and sugar, mix well.
  3. Add in the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb to the banana mixture and mix gently together, spoon into muffin cases.
  4. Pop in the oven for 15–20 minutes, the muffins should be dark and rounded.
  5. Allow to cool slightly in their tin before removing to a wire rack.

Top Tip: For an extra treat you can add some more mashed banana to cream cheese, whip together and spread on top of the muffins.

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The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo

This book has to go straight into my top 10 current favourites. I asked sometime ago to review this book and I am very glad that I did! Sandwiches were officially invented in Britain, it was the Earl of Sandwich who they are named after, and the British town Sandwich is about an hour and half away from me in Kent. Since I went to University in Kent I have visited Sandwich myself.

Now, in our household my husband’s daily packed lunch always consists of a sandwich, boring but true. Unfortunately, despite being a food blogger, I end up doing the same type of sandwich, cheese and pickle or ham and mustard. I do use mature cheddar and homemade chutney/pickle, home cooked ham and Dijon mustard, so they are tasty sandwiches, but with my new book I can easily find ideas to fill our packed lunches.

My biggest issue with making packed lunches is that after cooking dinner, household chores, baking with my son, in the evening I haven’t got the energy to do much when making sandwiches (I always make them last thing at night so they are ready for the next day). I do try to meal plan my lunches but there is only so much time I have to get myself organised. With the Encyclopedia of Sandwiches all the thinking has been done for me. I can choose a few ideas, either using ingredients I already have, or by adding a few things to my shopping list and suddenly our packed lunches will be tastier and more exciting.

One reason I really like this book is the photography. Matt Armendariz shot all the photos, he is somebody I follow on twitter and it was lovely to see some of his work firsthand. I also like that each sandwich has some explanation, a little bit of history, which makes this book an interesting read inside and outside the kitchen.

I cooked the Devilled Ham. I learnt that this was popular in the 1970s and is called Devilled Ham because the heat in the sandwich refers to the Devil’s fiery den. Of course you can adjust the heat to your taste. This recipe was really easy for me to put together because I used my usual ham and had the rest of the ingredients in my store cupboard. My husband loved his sandwich and everyone I’ve told about this recipe have said they’d like to try it. I will be making it for the next party I have as not only is it unusual, it is delicious and by the nature of the recipe it makes the ham go twice as far so it is good on the purse strings too.

I think The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches is essential for every British kitchen. Sandwiches are a part of our daily lives, so we should mix it up a bit and make sure we don’t keep on eating the same sandwich everyday.

*You can check out the author, Susan Russo’s blog


href=”http://foodblogga.blogspot.com/”>here
.

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Pouring Yogurt

This week George and I have had the pleasure of testing some delicious pouring yogurt and I say pleasure because it really has been! Danone sent me some vouchers to try their Activia Pouring Yogurt and we have really enjoyed ourselves. It comes in three flavours, natural, vanilla and strawberry and is packed full of pro-biotics.

Everyday this week we’ve been pouring lots of vanilla yogurt over our homemade muesli. I liked the change from milk and for my 2 year old the thicker consistency than milk prevented the usual amount dripping all down his top. George was delighted when he saw me pouring out his yogurt for the first time – he exclaimed “Oh custard”. He loves custard and so I’ve been thinking that this could be used as an alternative to full fat custard, ideal poured over hot puddings.

The next use I found for the yogurt was my new invention of George’s smoothie. I mixed flavoured pouring yogurt with his usual milk in his beaker. With the yogurt added to his drink it made it more filling and tastier than plain milk. This pouring yogurt would make great fruit smoothies as well.

Later in the week I used the natural pouring yogurt in my Quick Bread recipe instead of mixing yogurt and milk as I usually do, this made my quick bread even quicker!

I really like this new concept of the pouring yogurt. There are so many ways to use it, this weekend we’ll be using it to make a creamy curry because the natural yogurt would work well added to savoury sauces.

I’m really pleased I had the chance to try out the pouring yogurt. It is a great addition to the household shopping list. It has something for everyone. It is great for:

  1. Pouring over desserts.
  2. Making Fruit smoothies.
  3. Pouring over cereal/muesli.
  4. Making savoury sauces.
  5. Using as an alternative to buttermilk, as in my Quick Bread recipe.
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Student Meal Plan

This weekend I was watching a Mum and her daughter at the supermarket. It was clear that this was a university student who was getting a whole lot of food shopping for free courtesy of the bank of Mum and Dad. It reminded me that I need to keep on top of my quick, easy recipes for students. My Student Meal Plan page sets out a basic list of 7 meals and links to a shopping list which is already prepared, what could be easier? I’ve listed it  below, please link this blog post to anyone you think would find it useful:

Student Meal Plan:

  1. Chilli con Carne or Spaghetti Bolognese
  2. Tuna or Bacon Pasta
  3. Quick Jacket Potatoes with cheese and beans
  4. Chicken Curry
  5. Fry up (may seem unhealthy but is quick, full of protein and can add grilled tomatoes as a vegetable)*
  6. Chicken or Prawn Stir fry
  7. Battered fish (or fishfingers!) with wedges, peas and sweetcorn.

*Use a non-stick frying pan to reduce the amount of oil you will need to cook this meal.

As I remember students seem forever hungry, so I’ve added a few filling snack ideas which can be planned into a shopping trip.

Snacks:

  1. Beans on toast
  2. Cheese on toast
  3. Cereal
  4. Bacon sandwich
  5. Soup
  6. Toasted ham and cheese sandwich
  7. Crumpets with jam

If you like my meal plan, you can see a basic shopping list to help here.

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5 A Day

Ok, so here is a picture of me holding a plastic bag, not very interesting. However, it was this plastic bag from the back of the cupboard that my husband thought would make an interesting blog post. This bag from the Co-op helpfully illustrates the portion sizes of a range of fruit and vegetables that contribute towards your 5 a day. I have been thinking a lot lately about how much fruit and veg you need to eat in order to make up your 5 a day. While I was reviewing Rachel de Thample’s book ‘Less Meat More Veg’, where she lists a number of fruit and veg and their portion sizes, I started to realise I really had no idea about fruit and veg portion sizes. In fact, the more people I asked about their ideas on portion size for fruit and veg the more I felt that not many of us have a clue  about how much we should be eating.

It is interesting to note that last year the whole notion of 5 fruit and veg a day seemed up for debate. A study ,of over 400,000 people, publicised by the newspapers suggested that 5 a day did not have a significant impact on cancer. I was amazed to read that the 5 a day mantra was decided upon first in America because it seemed an achievable and easy to remember number. I might seem really stupid here but what lies behind the 5 a day mantra is actually 5 or more a day, not just 5 a day at all! In Australia they call it 5+ a day, so  we should all be eating at least 5 a day! So what is going on here, should we be eating more veg or does it make no difference in the fight against cancer? It seems to me, on reading around this subject, that despite the recent study there is more to eating 5 a day than just fighting cancer; our fruit and veg intake helps fight against heart disease, aids our immune system and provides vital vitamins and nutrients for the healthy functions of our vital organs. So I’m going to plough ahead and after reviewing my diet I’ve got a lot more fruit and veg to cram into our weekly meal plans!

If this has got you thinking about your 5 a day portion sizes check out my guide to portion size for some of my favourite fruit and veg:

  • Fruit Juice – 150ml
  • Tomato – I medium sized; or 7 cherry tomatoes
  • Sultanas – 1 heaped tablespoon
  • Apple – 1 medium apple
  • Peas – 3 heaped tablespoons
  • Banana – 1 medium sized
  • Carrots – 3 heaped tablespoons
  • Broccoli – 4/5 medium florets
  • Onion – 1 medium sized
  • Satsumas – 2 small
  • Kiwi fruit – 2

This is just a few of the huge list I’ve been looking through. If you’d like to know any more or have a specific veg/fruit you’d like me to include leave a comment below and I can add it the list.

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British Seasonal Food by Mark Hix

I requested to review Mark Hix‘s book for Quadrille because the more I learn about food through doing this blog the more I want to eat locally produced food. It seems so much of our food has been engineered to give us produce all the year round and I feel the best most healthy food is locally grown in season food. It is also important to support local business so that our local shops stay open and big businesses do not make our high streets mind-numbingly similar.

Almost as soon as Mark Hix’s book arrived my husband got hold of it and declared it was one of his favourite cookbooks ever! Great praise indeed. He spent a long time pouring over the recipes and I was fine with this as I knew he would cook for me, he is a good cook. So the result my husband’s first ever blog post, his review of  “British Seasonal Food” by Mark Hix:

“British Seasonal Food is a food-lovers guide to cooking fantastic meals using in season ingredients. Mark Hix’s style and passion has evoked the hunter/gatherer instinct in me; his writing on wild game and other ingredients which can be foraged instills me to run out and start looking!

The book consists of a separate chapter for each month of the year and starts by listing featured seasonal produce for that month. For example – February: “striking Red Gurnard fished from the Channel, a veritable feast of Furred Game, and leafy winter Cabbages for hearty soups, braises and salads…” He then proceeds to provide specific recipes using these ingredients, such as Red Gurnard with Sea Spinach, Steamed Cockles and Brown Shrimps; Saddle of Hare with Beetroot Mash; and Cabbage and Bacon Soup.

The photography, graphics and illustrations are really striking and only serve to enliven the recipe text.

Hix also picks what would be considered to be by many obscure ingredients such as hare (February), razor clams (March), samphire (June), However, his information about sourcing and preparing this produce makes the reader feel within their depth!

I am very much looking forward to preparing Treacle Cured Salmon (which does not require any cooking, due to the reactions of the cure on the fish!) and Roast Pheasant with Chestnut Dumplings – watch this space!

I would highly recommend this book to the adventurous chef who wants to wow their family/guests with tasty seasonal meals, using the best of British ingredients.”

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Budget Meal Plan

I realise I’ve rather neglected my online meal plans for awhile. Needless to say I’ve been ploughing on with them at home, saving time, energy and money by sticking to my meal plans. A fellow blogger at crumbsfeedyourfamily.blogspot.com said of my blog “meal plans are the path to sanity”, thanks so much for that, it is the perfect quote. If you don’t meal plan, you can read why you should here and you can find out how to get started with your own meal plan here.

This week I’ve planned a budget meal plan, great for families, students etc, just change the quantities of the ingredients according to your needs:

  1. Quick Jacket Potatoes.
  2. Roast Chicken (or chicken pieces if you are cooking for one)
  3. Healthy Pasta Sauce.
  4. Chicken Noodle Broth (using leftovers from roast chicken)
  5. Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheese
  6. Speedy Prawn Stirfry
  7. Chorizo Pasta
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